Racist Announcer Watch: Jeremy Lin Edition

February 20, 2012

People have been asking me for days to write about Jeremy Lin.  I have refused so far because I didn’t have anything new to say.  Lin has been covered so extensively in the media that it is almost impossible to come up with anything original.  Or at least I thought it was until yesterday when I watched my first full Knicks game with Lin in the line-up.  By the end of the game everyone in the room was paying as much attention to the stereotyping and subtle racism as to the game itself.  Which is saying something since the end of that game was Linsane. As a result I had to bring back my favorite blog gimmick: The Racist Announcer Watch.  If you missed the first two Racist Announcer Watches they can be found here and here.


Jeremy Lin has brought out the absolute worst in racist announcers, and more importantly has ended the commentator monopoly on subconscious racism and stereotyping.  Thanks to Lin sportscenter anchors, television producers, and most egregiously ESPN Webmasters have joined in on the fun.  All of this has given the Racist Announcer Watch a lot to take in.  I am mostly going to focus on issues during the ABC telecast yesterday but I can’t completely ignore this absurd ESPN headline from early last week.

Really ESPN?  Really?  How could anyone possibly think that headline was okay?  We have moved on from the accidental or at least veiled racism that I love to mock and gone straight to downright inappropriate.

That headline has been all over the mainstream media.  Anyone can point out racism that blatant.  What you really need the Racist Announcer Watch for are the more hidden and casual examples.  Fortunately for me there were a ton yesterday.


Firstly, the announcers referred to Lin as a “smart” or “cerebral” player over ten times during the game.  This is a tricky one because by all accounts Lin has a high basketball I.Q. and no one can doubt his actual intelligence given that he went to Harvard.  I am not buying it.  Dirk Nowitzki is an exceptionally smart basketball player who has mastered shot angles and trajectories better than anyone in the league today.  And yet his intelligence was not complimented once during the game.  Commentators defend themselves by claiming that Lin’s Harvard education, and not his race, is the reason that people focus on his intelligence.  I am also going to call bullshit on this one.  NBA players come out of schools like Duke, Stanford, and Vanderbilt all of the time.  Granted these schools are a notch below the Ivys but its not that big of a step, and I definitely have not heard Van Gundy or any other announcer gushing about Robin Lopez or Carlos Boozer’s intelligence.  If you are looking for more proof then look into the ways in which Buffalo Bills QB and Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick is described.  His intelligences is rarely if ever mentioned.  Repeatedly harping on the intelligence and smarts of the most prominent Asian player in the NBA makes you a racist announcer.

The most egregious, and funny examples of racism during the game yesterday did not come from the announcers however.  They came from the producers, cameramen, network executives, or whoever the hell decides what cameras to cut to during the game.  Whenever Lin did something well there was a crowd shot featuring someone of Asian decent.  A couple of times you could see the cameras panning, searching for the proper demographic to zoom in on.  Even worse, multiple times during the game the feed switched to a camera somewhere called Hong Kong station in Chinatown.  The room was predictably filled with Asians going crazy and hugging each other after each great play by Lin.  I literally could not believe they did this once, much less frequently.  How is this not bigger news?

The move by the NBA and the TV networks to emphasize Lin’s ethnicity is getting pretty blatant.  It makes sense from a business perspective, (increase jersey sales and other revenues both among Asian-Americans and in Asia) but it is not fair to Lin.  He is a great player in his own right and since February 4th has more points than anyone in the NBA not named Kevin Durant. (and Durant had to drop 51 last night to get ahead of Lin)  He deserves to be recognized for this.  A camera placed in any bar in NYC would have properly captured the excitement that Linsanity has brought.  Hell, a camera in my room yesterday would have caught a bunch of avowed New York sports haters going completely nuts during the game.  Focusing only on Lin’s ethnicity devalues him as a player.  Unfortunately since there has been little to no negative press for this sort of behavior we have no clue where networks will draw the line.  Remember I warned you guys when ABC has cameras in every Panda Express in New York.  It’s not gonna be pretty.


Saturday Night Live did a great parody of the media coverage of Lin last week.  Not surprisingly they went a lot further than I did.  Check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.



Finally, I think we need to set an expiration date on Lin puns.  It is lazy and at this point not even that clever.  Anyways, we shouldn’t be spending our time coming up with Lin puns when what we really need to be doing is readying ourselves for the Novakalypse.




8 Responses to “Racist Announcer Watch: Jeremy Lin Edition”

  1. Jordan Leung said

    To be fair, in some of the cuts to Asian people, those Asian people were Jeremy Lin’s family, and Asian people tend to have Asian family members.

    On the whole ‘smart player’ thing, it’s hard to blame this on race. Jeremy IS a smart player. I understand where you are coming from because guys like Nash and Dirk are also players that have high basketball IQ, but they are often described with words like ‘crafty’ or ‘creative’. I’ve heard the ‘smart player’ label being thrown around Duke players Shane Battier and Grant Hill (particularly after he lost his athleticism), and the smart player label is commonly used on players who are effective and don’t rely as much on their athleticism.

    It’s just one of those racially motivated things in sports. White draft prospects have traditionally been compared to other white prospects. People will always question a black quarterback’s ability to perform in the pocket, and question white running backs and white wide receivers’ athleticism. There has never been an effective Asian guard in the league, so people may be a little more sensitive to anything that could have to do with race.

  2. alexpm90 said

    Jeremy Lin’s GPA was a 3.1, easily in the bottom 25% of Harvard graduates. He would not have gotten into Harvard if it weren’t for his basketball prowess. He would not have attended Harvard if he didn’t literally have ZERO scholarship offers (Ivy schools don’t give them). What I’m saying is I agree, Lin is not all that smart and smart, cerebral players don’t set all-time records for turnovers. He’s good and agreed his race is what brings the comments.

    • Jordan Leung said

      And what are we arguing? He’s basketball smart and he’s definitely ‘smart smart’. A majority of his turnovers are due to fatigue or good defense from the other team. Sometimes they are due to risky plays. There’s rarely been a deliberately stupid pass from him causing a turnover.

      I would bet $1000 that he is one of the top 5 most book smart guys in the NBA. There aren’t a lot of NBA players who graduate with a 4.0+ out of high school. I know Brandon Knight graduated with a 4.3. I don’t know how GPAs are calculated at Knight’s high school, but Jeremy Lin’s 4.2 is from one of the most competitive and unforgiving high schools in the nation. He’s definitely one of the smartest guys in the NBA in terms of book smarts.

      And academic smarts has no strong correlation to basketball smarts. Two different things.

      • rweaver89 said

        I never meant to imply that Lin is not smart but rather that people make such a big deal of his intelligence because of his race.

      • alexpm90 said

        jordan leung, if you truly think all of his turnovers are due to good defense and fatigue then you are an idiot. HE SET AN ALL TIME RECORD FOR TURNOVERS. that isn’t a coincidence. of course he’s one of the smarter guys in the NBA. I think the majority of college grads would be among the smartest guys in the NBA. the point is that his “smarts” are greatly exaggerated because of his race. and if academic smarts has no strong correlation to basketball smarts, then i guess that he had a 4.2 out of high school and went to harvard doesn’t matter. if you do some research, there have been countless academic all americans to make the nba. none of them named jeremy lin who has about 1,000,000 times the references to his smarts and they do.

  3. ACasualObserver said

    Duke and Stanford are most definitely on par with most Ivys, if not a cut above schools like Cornell or Brown.

    Calm yourself.

    • rweaver89 said

      That’s probably fair. As a Duke student however I figured I would be cautious. Don’t want to come off as too much of a homer

  4. Jack said

    That ESPN editor had used the phrase “chink in the armor” hundreds of times before that headline. That phrase was very applicable to Lin’s situation, seeing how he was seemingly invulnerable until a “chink in his armor” showed itself (his 9 turnovers).
    Also, for emphasizing his race, I think they’re doing a good job for that. He’s one of the very very few Asian-Americans in the NBA, and that’s a big deal. All my Chinese-born friends who have never followed NBA before absolutely love Linsanity. He is an amazing player, but more importantly, he’s an amazing Asian player. There haven’t been many of those in the NBA.
    Didn’t everyone make a bid deal about having a half-black man in the White House? Well now everyone’s making a big deal about having an Asian-American NBA star.

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